Nong Kiaw: A Chilled Out Town in Northern Laos



Joanna Horanin

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Last updated at 21/06/2024, 13:15

Hi, I'm Joanna, the author of The Blond Travels. In the worlds of Thailand and Portugal, I feel like a fish in water - and it's no coincidence! I've been exploring Thailand for over a decade, and I've settled in Portugal for 6 years now. My mission is to support Dreamers - just like you - in discovering these fascinating countries and helping those in love with them find their own place on Earth, preferably for good! Let's uncover these unique corners of the world together.

Nong Kiaw is a tiny, sleepy town in the North of Laos. I spend there a couple of days, trying to get some rest and chill out. After taking a small boat from Luang Prabang and sailing for 10 hours I thought I needed some peace and quiet, at least for a day or two.

The town is divided by a long bridge. If you arrive (like me) by a boat you will be dropped off in the old part of the town. There are a couple of hostels on that side, but the other side of the bridge is a little bit more modern and offers a little bit extra.

Kids coming back from school

The view from the bridge is really stunning. If you stay here one full day, make sure you walk through it a couple of times a day to observe how the light changes.

A view from the bridge

There is nothing much going on in Nong Kiaw. The few cafes and shops open early and serve typical food you find all over Laos: baguettes, soups and noodles. There is one Indian restaurant and the food is tasty and filling.

Quite a few of the bars offer massages and steam rooms – a good idea for a chilled out evening.

One of a few things you can do is hiking to Ban Hat Sao Village. You can explore by yourself as the paths are clearly marked.

On the Ban San Hain side (east) of the bridge turn towards River Side Resort and follow the road. The trek is quite easy, but non-sporty people can find it difficult. Ban Hat Sao is around 1 hour walk and if you walk further you will get to other villages – around 1 hour walk from each other.

In Ban Hat Sao you can visit a cave and a small waterfall. At one of the turns you will find people waiting to take you there (15,000K per person). But when you pass them, going straight into the village (ignore their nagging) there are small kids, who would do the same trek with you for the same price. However, for the kids to talk to you, you need to first get rid of the husslers.

If you don’t want to go trekking with the kids, it is a good idea to bring something with you for them. The village seems to be buzzying with children, and the little buggers are everywhere. They might like to try your sunglasses on and ask you to take photos of them. They sometimes ask tourists to play with them. They are really amusing.

A very stylish new friend
The kids really wanted to have their photos taken

The same trek can be done cycling. However, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, who is not fit, or doesn’t cycle regularly. The walk itself is pretty challenging and goes through steep hills and dirt roads.

Road leading to Ban Hat Sao

Useful information

  • You can get to Nong Kiaw by a boat from Luang Prabang; it takes around 10 hours; tickets cost 100,000K per person
  • Tiger Trail office is located in the old part of the town; they organise trekkings, cycling and kayaking trips
  • There is quite a large choice of accommodation; prices start from $5 per night per person
  • From Nong Kiaw you can take a boat further north